Tuesday 7 March 2023

The problem with a sin-focused ("single issue") attitude to self-improvement - and the the need for a source of Good guidance that is autonomous from our corrupted civilization

There are just so many ways in which modern culture is actively subversive, inverting values and corrupting behaviour - that to focus upon any in particular is to invite failure. 

Special attention paid to a specific response to a specific problem (which will usually result in the need to do something quite complex and effortful) - opens us up to a weakened and distracted response to the many other simultaneous problems. 

If we take a single-issue approach to dealing with our sins, in a world where there are So Many sins, we will end-up chasing our tails. Even if we weed-out one form of sin by great effort, meanwhile the others will have grown unchecked*. 

What is required is that values we live-by, be rooted in some source of real and true values that is autonomous from the mainstream culture. 

In other words; when Western civilization is become an ocean of corruption in which we must swim - because its corruption has invaded all institutions; we can no longer lead a Good life by the double-negative strategy of avoiding evil; but only by the positive strategy of pursuing Good

And to do this requires living in accordance with a source of Good that is independent-of, and uncorrupted by, our civilization.  

Then it does not matter what that culture is - past, present or future; nor what is does to us - because so long as we are rooted in reality and truth, we can recognize and repent whatever is corrupting, subversive or value-inverting. 

The traditional way for this to happen, was that the individual would obey the guidance of a religious group (typically a church) that was autonomous and Good

But now there are no churches or other religious groupings that are both big-enough and autonomous from the subversions of culture nowadays - and which can be relied-upon to remain autonomous for as long as we may need them. 

To be rooted-in a church, is therefore merely to be rooted in a variant of the mainstream corrupt-culture. 

The other way is for each individual to 'obey' the guidance of some internal source which is both Good and autonomous. 

Is this possible? Is there a source within-Man that is sufficiently autonomous of the evils of culture, and also Good? 

For me, the answer is Yes - because this is a matter of metaphysical Christian theology. 

In other words; my fundamental beliefs concerning the nature of God and divine creation assume that God is Good, and we are God's children - and therefore we each have within us that which makes God Good.

In other words we each have in us (because we are God's children) a True and Uncorrupted Self which is in harmony with divine creation, and from-which we can be guided towards that which is Good.  

If one believes-in a real-divine self, and that this True Self can be 'consulted' for guidance; then that potentially solves the problem of living in a corrupting civilization where that corruption includes the churches. 

Furthermore, in principle, each of us can deal with problems of corruption on an individual, case-by-case basis; rather than by - as with traditional religions - seeking generic solutions to particular classes of problem, or following general guidelines such as laws or prescribed practices. 

It all seems to depend, in the first instance, on whether one believes this source of inner guidance is real/ true/ possible.

*It is possible that a person may be dominated by a particular besetting sin, which needs to be weeded-out before anything else can be done - alcohol or drug addiction is an example. But we should not pretend that dealing with a single sin makes someone overall a better person - assuming that the sin was already repented

I mean that what is vital with a besetting sin is repentance. Reform of a sin is good, in and of itself; but only Good overall when it is indeed Good overall! 

Reform may, or may not, be possible in a particular instance; but it is at best is preparation for a subsequent change in overall attitude to life.


Ilo said...

This ties both to this post and the previous one, and regards the phenomenon of the 'tortured artist' or 'genius'.

This archetype seems to be everywhere in history, but more and more as consciousness became mature - the last 800 years, give or take. These men and (less often) women were not necessarily good in the sense of perfect morality; some had incredibly deep sins and flaws; some were even incredibly degenerate.

Yet, at the same time, they channeled through creativity such deep wisdom and beauty that they inspired countless others to actually lead good lives, and to apply creativity to their own lives. I don't have an accounting view of things, as if God was a bookkeeper tallying up pros and cons, good deeds and sins. And so it seems to me undeniable that these men and women, by inspiring others so deeply towards Truth, Goodness and Beauty - have done more despite their sins to contribute to the Good, whereas merely avoiding sin has contributed comparatively less.

This is far from the traditional view of course. But what interests me is that most of these men were 'tortured', in some way. As if it was impossible to both be a creative genius and a 'good person' in the strictly conventional sense.

At the same time, in our own age, it seems there are less and less creative geniuses, less and less actual special people, who are totally individual; and at the same time less and less conventionally good people as well. We seem to have tortured mediocrity. How do we get out of this? I suppose churches will say we should promote 'conventional goodness', but I think that inspires even less people now than before. But how do we even encourage genius? And if we do, can we escape the 'tortured' part?

Bruce Charlton said...

@llo - I'm nor sure whether you realize that I have written a lot about the themes you mention - a book called The genius Famine (available free online on one of my blogs), and about the 'nasty Christian' -


And - e.g. using Coleridge as the example - the kind of tormented creative genius Christian you describe:


In other words, I agree with you that this is a very important issue, which modern Christians need to sort-out (especially now that nearly all the nice people, including those in Christian churches, have taken the side of evil in the spiritual war).

Ilo said...

I was not. I came by your blog around the time the peck was rolled out, I think, and have rarely ventured to the older posts. I will check those links out. This seems indeed a key question for our times. Thank you.